Braces are usually custom-made and are prescribed and designed by the orthodontist according to the problem being treated. Other orthopedic appliances are designed to correct jaw-growth problems. These appliances, which include headgear, bionator, Herbst and maxillary expansion appliances, use carefully directed forces to guide the growth and development of jaws in children and/or teenagers.
Teeth can be repositioned with braces that are attached to the teeth or by removable appliances. Fixed braces or removable appliances place a constant, gentle force in a carefully controlled direction, and are designed to slowly move teeth through their supporting bone to a new desirable position.
Brackets are the small components that are bonded to each tooth. They can be silver-colored or tooth-colored, depending on the patient's preference. In some cases, "lingual braces" are brackets bonded on the inside of the teeth.
Wires are the components that connect each bracket to another. In addition to the more traditional steel wires, some are made of technologically advanced alloys of nickel, titanium, copper and cobalt. Some wires are even heat-activated. When engaged with the brackets, the wires are designed to exert a steady, gentle pressure on the teeth. This allows the tooth-moving process to be faster and more comfortable for patients, and ultimately, reduce the number of appointments needed to make adjustments. Clear orthodontic wires are currently being tested and developed, but are not on the market yet.
Care of your braces
It is important to maintain excellent oral hygiene to limit the risk of decalcification and cavities forming on your teeth when braces are in place. In addition, avoiding sticky, chewy, tough and sugary foods will help to keep your orthodontic appliances intact and your teeth healthier. Your orthodontist and staff will provide education and supplies to help you keep a healthy smile.
Discomfort of braces
Overall, orthodontic discomfort is short-lived and easily managed. Most people have some discomfort after their braces are first placed or when adjusted during treatment. After the braces are on, teeth may become sore and may be tender to biting pressures for a few days to a week. Patients can usually manage this discomfort well with whatever pain medication they might commonly take for a headache.
The lips, cheeks and tongue may also become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become accustomed to the surface of the braces. Using dental wax provided by the orthodontist and staff can help soften the rough edges during active treatment.
Braces and your active lifestyle
Special mouthguards are needed during active orthodontic treatment for patients who are involved in contact sports. These mouthguards are available to patients who need them, and a custom-fit mouthguard will be provided as needed for patients who have completed active treatment.
Playing wind or brass instruments, such as the trumpet, will often require some adaptation to braces. With practice and a period of adjustment, braces typically do not interfere with the playing of musical instruments.
Retainers are needed after orthodontic treatment and removal of braces because the teeth can shift out of position if they are not stabilized. Retainers are designed to hold teeth in their corrected, ideal positions until the bones and gums adapt to the treatment changes. Wearing retainers exactly as instructed is the best insurance that the treatment improvements last for a lifetime.
Baby molar teeth, also known as primary molar teeth, hold needed space for permanent teeth that will come in later. When a baby molar tooth is lost or removed, an orthodontic device is usually worn to hold the space for the incoming permanent tooth.